When I asked others about which of the startups stood out at The Startup Factory’s last Showcase, which I missed, I got different answers from different people. That’s no good.
Actually, it’s very good. It means that the class was made up of several solid early stage companies.
For these reasons — a dislike of ambiguous responses and an appreciation for promising startups — I won’t be missing this season’s Showcase on Nov. 12 at Fletcher Opera House in Raleigh. For fall 2013, the Showcase is being held in conjunction with Startup Summit; it’s going to be a pretty big deal.
So what should you expect? You’re going to have to go to find out.
Ok, I’ll give you more than that. All of the six graduating companies are members of the ExitEvent network, and I recently got in touch with four of them to hear what they’ve done during their three months at the most highly capitalized accelerator in the Southeast.
One of the showcasing companies is Coursefork, which helps instructors connect and collaborate around open course materials. We’ve covered the company before — and Coursefork CEO, Elliot Hauser, has shared lessons learned with ExitEvent.
During Coursefork’s three months at TSF, the company closed an angel round, grew its user base by 500% and doubled the size of its team.
Hauser told me that at TSF, his team narrowed the company’s focus and validated the company’s direction.
To me, this means that instead of blindly building out product, they made sure they had product-market fit. And I absolutely agree with him when he says that as the company moves forward, this will be more valuable to them than more coded features.
“When we start pitching VCs starting next year our team, focus and effective targeting of users’ needs are what will sell them on us, not our codebase,” said Elliot.
Elliot is an articulate guy, as is Coursefork’s Eric Martindale who I’ve known for a while and Brian Marks, who I finally met at the last ExitEvent Startup Social. This paired with the company’s progress should make for a great pitch.
Another graduating company is 4Soils, a transplant from Silicon Valley that offers mobile stories, games, activities and virtual worlds that engage children with the Christian faith. 4Soils CEO and Founder, Lusi Chien, says that, like Coursefork, 4 Soils’ time at TSF was largely focused on their market, which is based primarily in the Southeast. Through TSF connections, they found mentors, bankers, attorneys, CFO firms and others who truly understood their target customers. Finding these types of connections had been more difficult in the Valley.
Brevado, a TSF company that creates project timelines for businesses to share with their clients, has had significant progress over the past few months. Their initial target market is web designers and they entered TSF with 30 alpha accounts.
They now have 730 accounts, have acquired their first paying customer, will soon be exiting public beta, and have beaten the TSF managers in beer pong (this last bit has not been verified).
Garofalo also mentioned the attention they received from Chris Heivly, TSF Managing Partner, and Dave Neal, TSF Managing Director.
“Chris and Dave give you the personalized attention that is very hard to come by in other areas. They are always happy to help and the mentors and speakers they bring in are incredible,” said Garofalo.
RocketBolt, which helps businesses increase online engagement and sales with easy-to-add website tools, will also be showcasing.
Aaron Dinin, RocketBolt Co-founder, told me, “During our three months at TSF, we grew from being a nameless team with a vague goal into a fully launched company with a product our customers are getting a lot of value from. It’s been a huge leap.”
I asked him how he would describe TSF to other early stage startups looking at accelerators.
“The Startup Factory is one of the few (accelerators) outside of Silicon Valley that seems to have found a formula capable of fully supporting its companies. It’s not over-crowded, and you never get the sense that you’re one small bet out of hundreds. Instead, TSF keeps its classes small and its process lean.”
To find out what small classes and a lean process can help produce, you shouldn’t read my article (well, you should, but more importantly) you should come see the startups first hand at the Showcase.